Friday, June 19, 2009

DSi firmware update ideas

The DSi is a great handheld for those willing to make the investment (More details in my review), but there are a few minor shortcomings noticeable in the system's built-in software. It used to be that, when a console shipped with problems like this, it was stuck that way for good. That's no longer the case, though, as the DSi's firmware can be updated much like the Wii's, allowing features to be added and existing software to be tweaked. As of yet, Nintendo hasn't even hinted at an upcoming firmware update for the DSi, but that hasn't stopped me from brainstorming the possibilities. Following are a few ideas I've thought up that would make the DSi that much more great.

SD card compatibility similar to that of the Wii since Wii Menu 4.0

I was really getting annoyed earlier this year. I had to keep deleting games off of my Wii's internal memory, redownloading ones I wanted to play again, and performing the mind-numbingly long task of shuffling others to the SD card and back. Finally, Nintendo delivered with Wii Menu 4.0, allowing lightning-fast play of WiiWare and Virtual Console games stored on the SD card. Since then, all's been good...

...but a similar problem may soon be arising with the DSi. It was recently found out that, if you've downloaded all the DSiWare software available, your DSi is officially full. Of course, much of what's on DSiWare right now is, well, crap, but that could surely change in the near future. In the last few weeks alone, Mighty Flip Champs and Mario VS Donkey Kong: Minis March Again have appeared on the DSiStore, and many more titles are on their way. Eventually we're going to run out of space for it all. Sadly, unlike the Wii, the DSi lacks the ability to directly run software off of an SD card... for now. Surely Nintendo could do the same thing on the DSi as they did on the Wii? Since I see no reason why not, yes, they can do it... And don't call me Shirley*.

Pause gameplay and access the main menu

You're sitting on a park bench, playing a good round of Fire Emblem, when all of a sudden you look up and see a hawk perched on the tree nearby. But you left your camera at home, and your cell phone's recharging! Well, you could just tap the power button and return to the main menu... But that would mean losing your progress in that round of Fire Emblem (And you were doing pretty damn well, too!). Well, it's either that, or miss an awesome picture of a hawk. Decisions!

This wouldn't be a problem, though, if you could just pause the game and jump back to the main menu. Like minimizing a program on a computer, you could duck out, take a pic, and jump right back in. The way I see this working out (Mind you, I'm no tech-expert, so stop me if this isn't feasible) is the game just pausing as usual while the picture's being taken. In fact, this may even be what Nintendo was planning all along. The DSi 16MB of RAM, four times as much as any previous DS model. RAM dictates how much a computer can do at once, and it's sure to be the same with the DSi. With 4MB being taken up by the game, that leaves 12MB to do whatever we want. Surely that's enough to handle taking a simple picture? Theoretically, yes, it is enough... And stop calling me Shirley*.

Now, the next question is, how would this function be accessed? Every button on the DSi is already taken... So why not make it replace the one-tap-to-the-menu function of the Power Button? Instead of a single tap taking you directly to the menu, a window would pop up asking what you want to do: Pause the game and access the menu; shut down the game, lose all progress and access the menu; or simply cancel and return to the game.

A final problem arises with upcoming, unknown software... Nintendo can't have put all that extra RAM just for the sake of this function. Upcoming, more hardware-intensive games are coming, and they'll be using higher amounts of the DSi's RAM. When it comes to this, my system outlined above won't be possible (That is, if it wasn't already rendered impossible by my lack of tech knowledge. Experts, feel free to chime in!). When games like these come along, I propose a new function: A quick-save feature built in to all software... And really, that's all there is to it. Just a quick-save feature. Why don't all handheld games have this already, anyway? It's a portable console, for crying out loud, we should be able to save and quit whenever we need! Pick-up-and-play, people!

MP3 support on DSi Sound, and a playlist feature for music

No matter how hard I tried, I was never able to get any AAC file loaded on an SD card to play on my DSi (Click here, hit Ctrl+F and punch in "Continuing along" for more). With so many hoops to jump through, there's probably somewhere along the way where I made a mistake. Why not just cut all the crap and put MP3 support in there? Post an updated DSi Sound Channel on the DSiStore, charge 200 points to cover the format licensing fee, and we're in business. That's all there is to it.

Sadly, I doubt this will happen. Nintendo seems to be running away from the MP3 format for no reason, straight into the land of AAC. Makes no sense. Whether or not this becomes a reality, though, I still want the following feature to be implemented: Playlists. As it is, audio files can only be played one by one, and in order to change to the next one, we have to fiddle about with the touchscreen. Doesn't exactly make for easy-playing of our music, does it? I know, DSi Sound is more meant for messing around with sounds and stuff than replacing a separate music player, but if the possibility for improvement is there, why not go for it? Toss in the MP3 format (Just do it, dammit), slap a 200 point price tag on it and label it "DSi Sound 2.0". Money in the bank!

Increased volume control sensitivity

I do a lot of my gaming at night when everyone else is asleep. When I was using my DS Lite, I usually had little trouble using the volume slider to find an appropriate volume level that was both loud enough for me to clearly hear yet quiet enough so as to not disturb my family. With the DSi, though, the slider is out, the buttons are in, and my ideal volume level is between two of the settings. The one below it is too quiet, the one above it is too loud, and I really don't like gaming with headphones (No idea why, I just don't). I've heard other people complain about the different volume levels, too, so I know I'm not alone on this. It can't be that hard to just make each press of the button adjust the volume less, so go on and do it, Nintendo!

Easier main-menu image viewing

I take a lot of pictures with my DSi, since I usually have it handy. When I want to go show off those pictures, though, it's a bit of a pain. After starting up the system, I then have to navigate to the DSi Camera channel, select the Album option, wait for the first image to load, then wait for the next image to load, and so on... When right on the main menu I can see one of my many photos. So why not just let me shuffle through them on the main menu?

I'm suggesting a button for the lower screen, maybe called "Random Image". Tap it, and the photo on the top screen would randomly switch to a different one. Of course, this would only select images you'd labeled to show on the upper screen, so that random picture you took of a door but forgot to delete won't be popping up. Surely this can't be very hard to implement (You should know where this is going by now)?

What do you think of my ideas? Are they great? Stupid? Technically impossible? All of the above (I don't doubt someone will find a way to make that possible)? Have your say in the comment section, or in this thread.

*You there. Watch Airplane. NOW.


NaomiKnight said...

Hawk picture > Fire Emblem data.

Cool idea, though, and I totally agree with the MP3 suggestion. Converting files is a huge pain in the pants.

NetOperator Wibby said...

Ah, I see I'm not the only one with ideas. I was thinking that if we had an email with an attachment, we should be able to have an option to download it to the SD card or on-board memory. Also, be able to upload from SD card at least.

Anonymous said...

I think that they could have done a lot with this system. Almost like a phone where you can use your DSI to transfer and post your pictures and stuff like that. Even download attachments from your mail, or send out photos and such to your friends. I think they rushed this system and should have slowed down and thought about what this little device could do.

Anonymous said...

You have an interesting idea about the cameras, yet the DSi can't multi-task. It's main processor (which also would play a roll in multi-tasking) is only 133mhz, which half is being used by the game, leaving only half of the power (which is usually all being used by the camera) left to take the pictures. As well as, even though you'd think it wouldn't, the DSi cameras would more likely take up too much RAM, in which would probably kill the system, leaving you without the picture and without saving your game.

As for AAC conversion, just go look at the program Audacity. Even though it's a audio munipulation tool, I've used it with great success in converting MP3's into M4A's (ACC's), and the quality ends up better than the MP3 and still has all of the tags.

Anonymous said...

(I didn't read the entire blog when I posted the other thing so... :D) As for the AAC being used in the first place, it's higher quality (well, can be if you get it as AAC and not MP3, but, no one sells anything as AAC?) and actually does sound better when converted. I converted about 5 albums and then compared them. The MP3 files sounded ugly, kind of choppy and poppy. Not so was with the AAC. They sounded more as they were intended to (except stuck at only 96kbps :(). That'd be why they use AAC instead of MP3.

Don't get me wrong, you have a lot of interesting ideas, but, like the volume control, that'd require hardware modification as, when the buttons pushed, it's not going straight to the firmware, it's going to the speakers, then the firmware to tell it the volumes been increased and/or decreased.

A lot of what peoples idea lists are is that, for the most part, they're not possible because of the DSi's limited resources.

Jonathan said...

Great ideas.

I've got one too...
They should add something similiar to the mail function on the Wii, giving us news about updates. Possibly linking our Hotmail, AIM, etc. accounts to the DSi mail so you could check it from your DSi. Theres so much they could do!

Jonathan said...

Great ideas.

I've got one too...
They should add something similiar to the mail function on the Wii, giving us news about updates. Possibly linking our Hotmail, AIM, etc. accounts to the DSi mail so you could check it from your DSi. Theres so much they could do!

Clay said...

I think it would be cool if the DSi were able to record video. That is definitely something they should consider! :D Imagine what you could do by making frames and filming video around them. :)

CMM1215 said...

One of the ideas you mentioned has actually been present in the current firmware (and the previous firmware). The "random image" button you mentioned for the main menu is there, albeit in a different form. Every time you close your DSi and reopen it, the 'wallpaper' image changes to another one of your starred photos.

One thing I'd like to see in a future firmware update is the changing of a message in the settings menu that appears when you go to upgrade. Even if you have the current firmware, it always claims that there's an update available for your console even when there isn't one. It wastes only a few seconds, but it is still aggravating.

I don't know what else to add to DSi in the form of a firmware update. Whether something is added that way or is offered as a download from the DSiShop, I would like that it be something that both adds to the value of the platform and further differentiates it from Apple's products.

DSi may share similar functions, but they're designed with an entirely different purpose. Additional functions or refinements could make this difference more obvious and make the DSi more relevant to peoples' lives. With Iwata very interested turning the DSi into your own entertainment platform, I think there are a ton of possibilities.